“Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming
Coming out of the last two months it will be important for each of you to reflect on what may have changed for your business. Prior to the shut down you knew your market and you were certain of the methods to attract and retain customers. Coming out of the shut down there are sure to be different needs, different resources and different customers all converging at different rates.
How to succeed after an abrupt change may be new territory for us but certainly not new throughout history. Major strategic and technological changes produce crisis. The industrial revolution changed the way farmers went about their business, the automobile, the invention of the airplane and many other examples over time exemplify the fact that industry can and does have to factor the effect of abrupt change into their business strategy.
You can approach this from two different viewpoints. You can assume you already know a lot from your past experience in which case you can make very intelligent, fact based “good guesses” that have a high probability of being directionally correct. Conversely, you can assume you know very little and with very little experience we all have a tendency to make “bad guesses”. So if you are in the camp of having little experience dealing with abrupt change consider moving to a more experimental methodology. Focus on your level of confidence in your strategic model and your operational ability to execute. Give yourself and your team permission to experiment. Don’t search for the “right” answer – experiment with ideas and focus on the lessons learned. How do all the pieces fit together? How can the sum be greater than the parts? Develop a culture of rapid experimentation and lessons learned and open every aspect of your business to relentless discovery.
I would encourage you not to assume the “old way” (pre-Covid) is the right way. Challenge that notion. Run simulations, ask yourself and your team “what changes do we need to make?” and then run thought experiments to try those ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. I am not advising running full cost, radical change experiments. I am suggesting that you dedicate an hour a day to thoughtful exercise with your teams to ask these questions and “war game” the answers. You may discover your business will recover and grow with the exact same strategy as you had before the shut down or you and your team may just come up with an idea worth running as an experiment that leads to an entirely new strategy.
Either way you’ve done what leaders do – question the status quo, involve the team in distributed discovery and experimentation and prepared for the inevitable changing needs of your customers.
Executive in Residence, iMCI